Thoughts from the Road – New Jersey Campsite

Nearing the halfway mark of the tour, about to spend a week in the Big City—New York—the mission is in full swing.

And it’s definitely a mission. This is not a get-rich-quick scheme; in fact, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever attempted and it weighs heavy on my soul.

It’s heavy when you sit in front of your display for hours, in front of the US flag I fought under, in front of a banner urging people to hear veterans stories, and not even a single person stops to give you the time of day. It’s hard to sell a book, a story I’ve pored years of sweat and tears into, and get little response from people on the street, in the bookstores, and even my own friends and supporters.

“Hey sir, do you know anyone who served in the military?”

“Yeah! And they’re all dead!”

“Ma’am. Do you like to read?”

“Yes, very much.”

“Want to check out this book I wrote? It’s about the War in Iraq?”

“Oh. . . I think I know enough about what’s going on over there.”

A group of cute women my age.

“Excuse me ladies? Do you support your soldiers?”

Nothing. Not even a response.

One of the greatest parts about this tour is talking to vets: Iraq, Afghanistan, Gulf War I, Vietnam, Korea, and even a few World War II. They stop and shake my hand, we share stories, but most of all we share knowing looks. They might be too broke to buy a book, but they check it out, and tell me I’m doing good things.

Older hobos and vagrants frequently stop and talk, more often than not, they’re Vietnam vets. They may be panhandling from other people, but they’re not looking for handouts from me.

“You a veteran?”

“Yes sir. And you?”

“Vietnam.”

“Thank you for your service sir.”

“No. . . thank you, son.” A handshake, some human acknowledgment, that’s all they want from me, and I’m more than happy to give it. We owe them, but America hung them out to dry. We demanded that the soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors of that generation go over to a jungle halfway around the world and kill for the sake of “American ideals.” They came back, many fucked in the head for what they had to do to survive, what they thought they were doing for all their loved ones and communities and nation. America called them “baby-killers” and now watch in disgust as many of them age away, take to the streets, and survive in a new jungle: an indifferent homeland.

One thing that’s been continuously reinforced throughout this entire trip is that the younger generation as a whole, my generation, does not care about the wars going on or the veterans who fought in them. If you don’t have some kind of human connection to the fight—a brother, a mother, a nephew, or cousin—then you don’t know and you don’t care. I’ve about ceased trying to sell books to people between the ages of 18 and 30—the young crowd, the hip crowd, the college crowd. These are the future leaders of America, who don’t know shit about what it really means to go to war, and you know what’s going to happen when they in turn become businessmen and lawyers and politicians and educators? They’re just going to send off the next generation to the slaughter, to kill more people halfway around the world who just want to survive and feed their own families.

But I can’t just disparage the youth, because that’s too easy. An Army buddy of mine, a brother-in-arms, who showed me a great time in his hometown and always treats me like family, is in the doghouse with his wife and in-laws because of Zarqawi’s Ice Cream.

“You did that? I can’t believe you!”

“I can’t believe I let him sleep in my house!”

“He makes the Army look bad, like you guys were a bunch of savages.”

We were a bunch of savages. You send off a bunch of teenagers to kill people halfway across the world and expect us to act like missionaries? We were just tools, so you didn’t have to get your hands bloody, so you could sleep at night and tell yourself that you’re a good person.

All the time I hear it. “I didn’t support the war.” I guess the insinuation is that you don’t have to hear about it or deal with the consequences, or even give a moment of your time to the veterans who volunteered to fight and bleed and risk insanity and give years away to a cause they can’t define or benefit from.

But you did support the war. In 2003 your Congress, your Senate, and your President decided to invade Iraq…and by overwhelming majorities. And it’s still going on. People are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers and civilians. Death is death is death.

If you want sanitized stories, if you want to keep living in a false reality and pretend like you know what’s going on, then don’t buy my book, don’t listen to the vets of Korea and Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan who did inhumane things to fellow human beings so that fat Americans can keep eating cheeseburgers and driving luxury cars. Know the consequences of going to war, what putting a machine gun in the hands of a teenager is going to do him and the society he lives in.

Don’t judge us, because you don’t know.

Listen to our stories.

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6 Comments

Filed under Book Tour, iraq war, Politics, soldier's stories

6 responses to “Thoughts from the Road – New Jersey Campsite

  1. John White

    Your the man Goldsmith. sorry to hear about the bull your getting up north. damn liberals. be safe on the road. look forward to you guys coming back to Colorado.

  2. karen goldsmith

    Dear Son I love you and support you, and this New Jersey post of course, made me cry. All the years you were gone, five! The prayers, the tears (mostly in the car when I was alone with no one to see), the nights I cried and prayed under the full moon sky, wondering if you were watching the moon too on night guard, the gratitude that you were one of the ones to come home alive. Unlike Paula’s nephew, a tall redhead like you same age, two weeks before his duty was up. To hear that some folks just pass your book by does not surprise me, though it hurts. One of the reasons I liked living in Phoenix was because of the proximity to Luke Air Force Base. To see soldiers daily in the stores, to know at least two or more people with soldiers in the family. To see daily articles in the news about support groups. Out here in Los Angeles, no one seems to care. Little mention, little concern, just another news “story” when for so many THIS IS REAL like your book says. Keep going, son, you are doing good! I love you. Mom

  3. Sean gillis

    A co is still here and we all love the book brother.

  4. Meghann Donovan

    Andy,
    I’m am so terribly heart broken after reading this post. I do not understand how the American public can simply walk away and ignore you. I wish I had a million dollars to help you promote the book. People have no clue what it’s like to be a soldier. No idea the sacrifices soldiers and their families make on a daily basis. It’s a crime that they just don’t care.

    I hope the holiday weekend brings better luck. If there’s anything I can do to help let me know!!!

    Meghann

  5. Troy Tempel

    My little brother spent some time over there and often times I honestly cannot comprehend the things that he had to deal with while on deployment. Reading about your experiences on the book tour helps me to attempt to understand what he has to deal with on a daily basis since being back. Thanks for doing what you’re doing. I appreciate it.

  6. Andrew- Despite having bought the book-thanks for shipping it so quickly, I have not read it because I bought it as a gift for a winner at my golf tournament. But I do read your blog posts and being the father of 2 Army Infantry Officers (1LT Mike Kane being one of them) I hear the same things in your post, that they say. I know this is nothing like what you all have gone through, but I am so tired of people telling me about how they support the troops, but when you ask for something-even something simple or inexpensive they have an excuse. I run into a ton of that crap from big companies, and well, I get pissed and I remind them what they all owe to the soldiers of this generation. Sometimes, they apologize and send something to help me raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project, sometimes, they ignore me. I don’t give a crap anymore. I will ask anybody to help me, I don’t care who they are, what they own or run. Some of the worst are Doctors and Lawyers, some are big Defense Contractors which really makes my blood boil. On the flip side of that some of the most generous are the people that can least afford to help. I have a blog too, and one of my posts is titled “The Fading Yellow Ribbon Syndrome”. Keep it up son, some of us out here do listen. Remember, even Thomas Paine had to appeal to the “sunshine Patriots” some 235 years ago…
    My blog is: http://www.teeoffforeacause.wordpress.com
    On Facebook http://www.facebook.com/teeoffforeacause

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